No If Onlys

Philippians 1:12-14 (New Living Translation)
And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.

If only I had a theology degree, then I could lead a small group. If only I had more time, then I could help out with Vacation Bible School. If only I could manage to get up earlier, then I could be a greeter on Sunday morning. If only I had more money, then I would be able to help out more. If only I could leave my job and start working for a ministry, then I could make a difference.

If only…

Now, before you start to panic, this is not a guilt trip! I’m certainly not saying that you need to all — or indeed any of the things listed above. But I do want you to consider the limitations that we place on our lives. These restraints might just keep God from being able to use our lives in an amazing way.

Paul wrote today’s letter to the church in Philippi from a jail cell, where he had been imprisoned for speaking about Jesus. For most of us, that would be a pretty depressing situation. We might think that our ministry was on hold until we could finally be released from prison. “If only,” we wouldn’t blame Paul for writing, “If only I were released, then I could get started again.” But, no, not Paul! He just continued to joyously share God’s message of love and reconciliation. He wasn’t able to talk with the people of the town any longer, so he shared instead with his fellow prisoners and his jailers. He continued to encourage churches all around the Mediterranean with beautiful, loving, challenging letters. Paul was limited in circumstances, but utterly unlimited in his joy in God.

Later in this same letter, Paul would declare: “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (4:13). That is true for us, as well! Pray about, think about, wrestle with what you would love to do for God. And then find a way — even a small way — to start doing it now. Want to lead a small group? Talk with someone who has done it, and find out what it is like. Curious about what activities they do with the kids at Vacation Bible School? Ask how you could be involved and help out. Feel passionate about a ministry, but don’t have the financial resources to contribute? Contact the ministry to learn other ways you can participate in their work. Whatever it is that God is calling you to do, whatever it is that’s pulling on your heart, find a way to do it!

Shake off those false limitations, my friends, and, with great joy, jump into what God is going to do through you!

If you were not held back by time or resources, what would you do with your life? How can you start doing that now?

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